Two years ago, Lincoln North Star graduate Luke Reimer was committed to FCS South Dakota State. One year ago, Reimer was a walk-on special teams contributor after flipping his commitment to Nebraska. On Saturday, Reimer — now on scholarship — logged his first career start and led Nebraska in tackles.
Nobody on the Nebraska sideline was surprised.
“You guys finally to to see what everybody at practice sees every day,” senior inside linebacker and team captain Collin Miller said on Monday. “Luke Reimer shows up every day with a positive mindset. He’s just one of those guys that has a knack for getting to the ball. We see it every single day at practice — special teams, defense, individual with Coach Ruud. It was good that you guys finally got to see his talent and his skills that he has to bring to the defense for the Blackshirts.”
Reimer missed Nebraska’s season opener at Ohio State after rolling his ankle, but the off-week provided by the canceled Wisconsin game gave him time to get healthy. With senior Will Honas unavailable on Saturday, Reimer started alongside Miller and racked up 10 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss including a strip sack.
Reimer said his nerves were “through the roof” when the game began, but he settled in after that.
“Far and away his worst drive of the game was the opening drive, so there were probably some nerves there,” inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said on Tuesday. “But nerves, that happens. I’ve been doing some form of football at a high level for almost 20 years and I still get really nervous before games, so that happens. It’s just experience; you have to get used to that. I do think once he got through that first drive he played pretty well. And hey, the nerves are a good thing. You’re supposed to be nervous before a big game. But now he knows, he’s been there in that situation and he knows how to handle it, and now we expect him not to have that little bit lackadaisical first drive and play like he did the rest of the game.”
Even on that first drive, Reimer made a couple of run-stuff tackles, although he also got caught out of position on a few plays including Drake Anderson’s 41-yard touchdown. On the next drive, however, Reimer teamed up with Ty Robinson to stop the Wildcats for a gain of 1 on third and 3, forcing a punt.
After the game, Reimer said it felt good to get on the field, but he couldn’t take too much pleasure in the way replayed because of the final score.
“There’s always stuff to improve on,” Reimer said. “I missed a couple plays that I should have made. There’s always stuff to improve on. We just needed to win this game, plain and simple. It hurts right now.”
Consider fellow sophomore and in-state linebacker recruit Garrett Nelson among those not surprise but the plays Reimer made on Saturday.
“That dude, he works his tail off in practice,” Nelson said. “He does everything right. The guy’s a — I’m not going to say ‘freak’ because he’s more than that. He works his tail off, he studies, he’s here every day. He’s obviously talented, but that’s not how I’d describe him. He’s just a hard worker, man. He flies around in practice, communicates. Collin Miller and the leaders in that middle linebacker room, Coach Ruud have accelerated his progress as a player. He’s a completely different guy from year one to year two. Leadership-wise, player-wise.
“It’s awesome watching him make some of the incredible plays that we see and that you guys see. He’s a great player, he’s a great guy to be around, he’s a great teammate. It’s awesome to play with him. I love having him at middle linebacker and I’m not surprised at all. You work hard every day like he does and like we do, improvement’s got to come. You just have to keep your nose to the grind stone like he does. He’s a phenomenal player and phenomenal guy.”
Miller said he jokes with the coaches all the time about how Reimer wasn’t a scholarship recruit. Everyone on the team knew he wouldn’t have t pay his own way for long after he got to campus.
“I can say for everyone in that room that he’s probably the most athletic linebacker we have,” Miller said. “His vertical’s crazy, his speed’s crazy, his IQ for football is through the roof. Once he got there as a freshman, I know he did a lot on special teams and he was making plays on special teams. I remember him in the Colorado game, he ran down on kickoff and he forced a fumble on kickoff. He just has a knack for getting to the ball, finding ways to make plays and just get to the ball. I’m glad that you guys can see what we all see every day in practice.”
Reimer’s play as a fill-in starter for Honas certainly gives Ruud something to think about once the senior is healthy. The Huskers used a three-man rotate at inside linebacker last season with Mohamed Barry, Miller and Honas, and Miller said a rotation could help keep them fresh once all three available.
“It’s always a good problem to have when you’ve got a lot of good players to get on the field,” Ruud said. “I think all those guys are going to play a lot of football for us. I think it ups the competition in practice, who gets to play the most, that sort of thing. But all three of those guys are really good football players. All three of those guys prepare really well and I’m expecting that kind of inner competition to elevate their play even more.”
No matter what his role looks like the rest of the season, Reimer has shown himself to be a valuable contributor on defense in just his second season as a Husker. He’s proven himself to be one of this staff’s best recruiting finds since they’ve arrived in Lincoln, especially considering they didn’t even need a scholarship offer to get him in the program.
“He just has so many talents and so many things he can help a football team with,” Miller said. “You just need more Luke Reimers on your team. Scholarship or not, you just need more kids like him.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.